The Making of a Woman

Charlotte grew up tall and strong.
She was athletic, softball and basketball especially. She loved riding her bicycle. Her brother described her as "Rough and tumble."  She was academically gifted, but that was almost expected - she could spell, recite and debate her way to any award they gave. She held every position of responsibility at Greenleaf academy, class president, clubs, etc. One childhood friend allowed as how it was unusual for a girl to lead so many efforts, but she added "But no one thought anything of it - It just Charlotte - She was just that good - at pretty much anything."  This is a theme heard time and again from those who knew her. Exceptions were made for her because she was exceptional. She was so enthusiastic and exceedingly competent, that to not use her talents would have been bad stewardship. 

Over at Greenleaf Friends Church, pastor Milo Ross knew he had a good batch of young people. He and the elders made sure that they formed a special training group and Bible study for them. Several were recorded as ministers in their early 20's. Christian Endeavor was a cross-denominational training program for teens. It invented the concept of what we would now call Youth Ministry. It trained leaders by letting them lead a mirror version of the church. It emphasized doing business by Roberts Rules of Order, taking careful minutes, election of officers and service on committees. Friends made minor adjustments. It sponsored regional and national conventions. It promoted the idea of righteous living according to an evangelical understanding, including temperence. They started every meeting with this pledge: 

Trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ for strength,I promise him that I will strive to do whatever he would like to have me do.  I will make it the rule of my life to pray and read the Bible everyday.  And as far as possible I will endeavor to lead a Christian life.

At the end of every meeting they would recite the Mitzpah blessing from Genesis 31:39. "May the Lord watch between thee and me while we are apart from one another."

This training for adult life that presumed service to church, school and community was never questioned by Charlotte or her peers. Until her death she served on more boards and committees than seems possible to modern eyes.  

Yet she was not immune to the struggles of adolescence. As comfortable as she was with a bat and ball or bicycle. She never really enjoyed the increasing emphasis on female looks. It wasn't an option to skip dresses (or girdles! ugh!) in adult life, but she didn't like them. As you can perceive in the photo above, she didn't really like having her picture taken and wasn't all that comfortable when dressed up - not at least until you gave her the chance to speak in public. Then the physical was forgotten and she lit up.

As she continued to train for leadership, many girls were training to be a wife.  Through her adolescence she presumed she would eventually marry, it is what women did, after all, but she never thought of it as an end in itself.  Family would be adjunct to ministry. As a teen she had no serious crushes, no likely prospects. 

Getting ready for college she confessed to a friend that it troubled her that boys didn't seem to be interested in her romantically. It was an intellectual problem that she didn't see a ready answer to - this was unusual for Charlotte. The simple boys didn't want a wife that would outshine them, and besides she couldn't bear the thought of being yoked to a yokel. But it surprised her to find out that the best and the brightest of them didn't want an equal, they wanted someone to look up to them, and to look after them. This puzzled her.

She knew that this lack of a mate would be a hindrance to her plans, but she confided to her friend that if she had to go it alone, she was still going.

(the above photo is undated - the lady on the left is identified as Helen Willcutts Street a sister? of Jack Wilcutts. Any assistance in dating or placing this photo would be appreciated.)




Children of the Pioneers recited.
Recitation was an important skill and art.
It was taught in school and rewarded in contests.
Bible passages, (not just verses) 
Addresses such as the one from Gettysburg,
and poetry were part of all public ceremonies
and might be called for in the Sunday afternoon parlor.
The child, standing stiff, chin up, hands clasped behind their back
would bring forth their latest work.

Charlotte had a favorite Poem,
From Edgar Albert Guest - 
knows as "The Peoples Poet."

Edgar A Guest

Somebody said that it couldn't be done.
But he, with a chuckle, replied
That maybe it couldn't, but he would be one
Who wouldn't say so 'till he'd tried.

So he buckled right in with a trace of a grin
On his face. If he worried he hid it.
He started to sing as he tackled the thing
That couldn't be done, and he did it.

Somebody scoffed, "Oh you'll never do that.
At least no one ever has done it."
But he took off his coat, and he took off his hat,
And the first thing we knew he'd begun it.

With a lift of his chin and a bit of a grin,
Without doubting or quid-dit,
He started to sing as he tackled the thing
That couldn't be done, and he did it.

There are thousands to tell you it cannot be done,
There are thousands to prophecy failure.
There are thousands to point out to you one by one
The dangers that wait to assail you.

But just buckle in with a trace of a grin,
Just take off your coat and go to it.
Just start to sing as you tackle the thing
That cannot be done ... and you'll do it!